Domestic Terrorism Through The Lens of Bad Faith

Domestic Terrorism Through The Lens of Bad Faith

Political issues are easier to digest when you start with the assumption that all politics are equally good and bad.

And it's easier to cover politics in the grand tradition of toothless American both-sides journalism if neither right nor left is right or wrong about anything and everything. The right wants to strip Americans of healthcare access; the left wants folks to be able to be able to go to the doctor. The right wants cops to operate without accountability; the left believes cops should maybe not be allowed to legally maim and murder civilians. The right pines for a time when abortion was illegal and women died of miscarriages; the left thinks pregnant folks should have healthcare. The right strives to curtail voting rights; the left believes everyone should have a say in who rules the republic.

Who's to say who is right and who is wrong? That would constitute judgment, and journalism – the American kind, anyway – operates without judgment. Journalists are merely there to jot down the words of the powerful.

This bad-faith desire to both-sides every political issue is particular odious when it's applied to our weekly gun massacres and the political violence that comes with them. The New York Times on Saturday published an op-ed in which the paper condemned far-right terrorism with myriad examples of Proud Boys and other fascist groups intimidating and terrorizing their many enemies – citing national reports and government assessments naming right-wing terrorism as "the most persistent and lethal terrorist threat to the homeland" – only to end the op-ed with a nod to the paper's rampant bothsidesism.

The NYT editorial board condemned members of the Elm Fork John Brown Gun Club, which in August showed up at a drag show in Roanoke, Texas, to defend drag performers and patrons against fascist protesters who show up to these events with guns and knives and baseball bats wrapped in barbed wire. Members of the gun club, who assist "marginalized communities in organizing community defense against white supremacists," provided security for the drag event. And yes, they were armed – a reasonable approach considering the violence implied by the far-right terrorists who protest the existence of LGBTQ people and their public gatherings, egged on by Fox News commentators who stop just short of telling their viewers to do what is necessary to remove LGBTQ folks from public view.

For the NYT editorial board and other so-called enlightened centrists observing from afar the downfall of the republic with detached cynicism, any pushback against the right's violence makes political violence a both-sides issue. If the left truly opposed gun violence and domestic terror, they would simply let armed right-wing mobs murder those they oppose, as happened in Colorado Springs this month. If the military veteran who helped stop the Colorado Springs drag event shooting by pummeling the shooter's face with a gun had really been against violence, he would have allowed the deadly rampage to continue.

You claim to oppose violence yet you protect those targeted by violence. Curious!  

All domestic violence is right-wing violence. Let's be clear about that. Conservatism is and always has been inherently violent to those who oppose it. When democracy does not deliver their preferred results – or when the culture won't bend to their fascist whims – violence is deployed. The mindset is a simple one: If I can't have my way through nonviolence, I will terrorize you until I get what I want. This was never clearer than the ransacking of the Capitol on January 6, an event preceded by four years of right-wing violence doled out by fascists emboldened by the election of Donald Trump.

There is no left-wing corollary for this, as much as the Times and other mainstream outlets would wish it so. Armed leftists groups are not showing up at conservative gatherings armed to the teeth. No left-leaning cable news host is telling their viewers that Republicans are pedophiles and groomers participating in a satantic cabal bent on world domination.

A March 2022 Carnegie Endowment for International Peace report on political violence in the US documented 73 cases of right-wing terror to 25 cases of left-wing terror in 2020. I, for one, would love to know what constitutes left-wing terrorism. Maybe forcing people to have healthcare? Or promoting anti-racism? I don't know. I can't even pretend to know.

Treating domestic terrorism and political violence as a both-sides issue in need of some sort of bipartisan solution is an imminently dangerous kind of bad faith. It fools the public into believing the American right and left are equally twisted and violent, and that both sides are an existential threat to democracy. It's the kind of bad faith that provides invaluable cover to fascist organizations that have long relied on media bothesidesism to operate with impunity. And it has to stop if marginalized folks are ever going to be safe in our lawless swamp of a dying republic.

Follow Denny Carter on Twitter at @CDCarter13.